Loughner set to plead guilty

Aug 4, 2012, 6:21 PM | Updated: 6:27 pm

Jared Lee Loughner is set to plead guilty Tuesday in the
shooting attack that severely wounded Representative
Gabrielle Giffords, according to knowledgeable sources.

Mental health officials believe Loughner is now competent
to understand the charges against him in the shooting
which killed six people and injured 13 at an event held by
the congresswoman in Tucson.

According to the LA Times terms of the plea
arrangement remaine unclear whether or not Loughner
would admit guilt to all of the charges in return for a
lengthy prison sentence rather than face a potential
death penalty verdict at trial.

At the hearing Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in
Tucson, psychiatric experts are scheduled to testify that
they have concluded that despite swings in Loughner’s
mental capacity, at this time he comprehends what happened
and the significance of the charges against him.

Many victims and family members from the Jan. 8, 2011,
shooting are likely to attend the hearing in downtown
Tucson, not far from the site of the attack.

Loughner’s agreement to plead guilty would probably end
more than a year and a half of psychiatric evaluations
including periods in which he was medicated at a federal
prison hospital.

The indictment said a search of Loughner’s home turned up
a letter hidden in a safe in which Giffords thanked him
for attending an earlier Congress On Your Corner event.
Also in the safe was an envelope with handwriting that
said, “I planned ahead” and “My assassination” and
Giffords’ name, “along with what appears to be Loughner’s
signature,” the indictment said.

Prosecutors pointed to that as evidence that Loughner
coldly calculated the attack.

But soon after his arrest, the focus immediately turned to
whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.

Friends said loughner had tried marijuana and used
alcohol; while attending college, and he videotaped a rant
in September 2010 on the campus in which he screamed that
the school was not following the Constitution.

According to the indictment, Loughner purchased the Glock
at a Tucson gun shop in November 2010 and the ammunition
at a Wal-Mart store on the morning of the shooting. He
took a taxi to the Safeway parking lot where Giffords was
holding her constituent meeting.

Loughner was placed under suicide watch and often paced in
circles about his cell, according to court records and
pretrial testimony. He screamed and cried. He remained
convinced that Giffords was dead, and became angry when
told she survived. Once, advised he might face the death
penalty, Loughner sobbed for nearly an hour. “I want to
die,” he said. “Give me the injection now. Kill me now.”

According to court records, two medical experts agreed
that Loughner suffered from schizophrenia and predicted
that any improvements would be far away, if possible at
all.

In a May 2011 hearing, federal marshals forcibly removed
Loughner from the courtroom after he began shouting,
something like “kill free” or “kill shot” — words that
were hard to understand. Then he yelled, “She died in
front of me!”

Given the option of behaving or watching the proceedings
from a nearby cell with a remote television screen,
Loughner chose the cell.

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